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Educated farmers in Punjab venture into dairy farming

Business Standard:  March, 2014

Chandigarh: Worried over diminishing returns from small holdings in the state, young and educated farmers in Punjab with an entrepreneurial streak are venturing into commercial dairy farming. The farmers say that a commercial dairy farm gives them high returns compared with conventional agriculture on small land-holdings, which is proving unsustainable.

There are about 6,000 progressive dairy farmers in Punjab and the state has more such farmers than any other Indian state, with farms varying in size from 10 to 500 high-yielding breeds of cows. Also, the daily production of milk by these farms is about 12-15 lakh litres. The success of commercial dairy farming in the state can be gauged from the fact that seven years ago, it had only about 600 commercial dairy farms, while today it has over 6,000 dairy farms. Further, as word about these remunerative ventures is spreading, more and more progressive and enterprising farmers are entering this business.

Harinder Singh, a progressive dairy farmer who is a graduate by qualification, told Business Standard, "I was in the transport business, but I quit it as it was not remunerative. We have around eight acres of land. Even a relatively small inheritance of four to five acres is enough to set up a dairy farm with high-yielding cross-bred cows. So, initially, I started with 10 animals and today we have 270 animals." He said commercial dairy farming is remunerative because of assured buying. "In order to control input costs, farmers are investing in mechanisation and have installed state-of-the-art machinery in their farms, including milk parlours and chillers," he added.

Another graduate farmer, Daljeet Singh, said, "After graduating, I wanted to start my own business and dairy farming suited me. Today I have over 500 animals." Singh, who is also the president of the Progressive Dairy Farmers Association (PDFA) - which provides hand-holding support to farmers - said, "About 80 per cent of our association members are between 22 and 45 years of age and educated, which clearly suggests that more and more educated youth are venturing into this business. Education helps them in early adoption of technology and knowledge. The association is engaged in transferring knowledge to all new entrants to ensure that each dairy farmer is guaranteed high returns."

Harinder Singh said that a major portion of commercial dairy farms in the state now have machines for milking cows installed in milk parlours, fitted with the latest gadgets to keep a record of each animal, open and well-ventilated sheds specially constructed to suit the needs of cross-bred cows, total mixed ration wagons and other provisions designed to maximise profit.

Balbir Singh, the PDFA's general secretary, said, "The farmers are fast adopting the practices and latest technologies used by their counterparts in Europe and the US. In order to facilitate the farmers we provide hand-holding support and also provide them with high-yielding varieties of semen."

Having tasted success in Punjab, PDFA is now planning to promote commercial dairy farming in other states. The association has formed the All India Progressive Dairy Farmers Association and has plans to provide dairy farmers technical know-how in setting up commercial dairies and other relevant information.

Dr Jaswinder Singh Bhatti, technical coordinator, PDFA, said, "Progressive dairy farming in Punjab is a huge success and a role model for other states. So, the association is planning to replicate this success in other states like Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. We will provide technical know-how to dairy farmers to take this activity to a commercial scale."